This Week in Cougar Hoops

THERE IT WAS, for all to see. "Right now, Washington State looks like the best team in the Pac-10." A comment from a Cougar homer? A newspaperman with Northwest ties? Neither, actually.

It came from Fox Sports' national college basketball writer Jeff Goodman, who sent out that tweet Saturday after Washington lost to Texas A&M.

Maybe that's a bit knee-jerk, given that the Huskies have looked like the real deal when they play at home. Washington State has yet to take its show on the road and beat a good team with authority.

Still, it's easy to like the Cougars these days, particularly if you viewed most of Wednesday's 81-59 shellacking of Gonzaga. The Bulldogs probably aren't the team they've been in recent years, but that's not WSU's problem. The Cougars looked like a Top 25 team in their thorough manhandling of Gonzaga.

It's the type of signature win WSU fans have wanted to see under coach Ken Bone.

Klay Thompson gave a performance worthy of a Pac-10 Player of the Year candidate, with a 24-point, six-rebound, six-assist outing against Gonzaga. If Thompson keeps that up, Cougar fans might start to worry whether he'll leave for the NBA a year early. It's a good worry to have.

BUT THERE WAS more. Anyone think Faisal Aden is the Pac-10's best newcomer this season?

All Aden does is shoot 50 percent from the field, is radar from 3-point range and make a fair number of other plays elsewhere. In six of WSU's eight games, Aden has shot 50 percent or better, including 6 of 12 against Gonzaga.

As long as Washington State keeps the game going at a fast pace and dominates teams from the perimeter, the Cougars don't have to worry much about their lack of size. Gonzaga out-boarded WSU 36-24, yet it didn't matter one bit.

It's not surprising that two days after the emotional, emphatic win over Gonzaga, the Cougars didn't look as sharp in pounding overmatched Texas-Pan American 74-52. That's a game you'd like to have a week from now, not two days later. Still, Washington State hardly embarrassed itself, as Aden had another solid outing, with 20 points and seven rebounds. The Cougars shot 50 percent from the floor and 10 of 22 from 3-point range.

The week ahead: We're not going to suggest that the week's lone game, Sunday at Santa Clara, is Washington State's toughest of the season. It's not.

But it's a dangerous game.

It's WSU's first game in nine days, on the road against a team with a winning record, with the players coming off finals week.

If Washington State gives this one less than its full attention, the Broncos are capable of winning.

Santa Clara is 5-4 heading into the week, coming off a 67-63 win over San Jose State. The Broncos are 0-2 against the Pac-10 this season, losing to USC 86-73 on Nov. 15 and Arizona 82-59 on Nov. 26. Santa Clara is 4-2 at home this season, having lost to Arizona and UC-Santa Barbara.

One Bronco who could give Washington State trouble is junior Marc Trasolini, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward averaging 11.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Kevin Foster is Santa Clara's leading scorer at 18.7 points a game.

Statistically, the Broncos aren't exceptional in any category. Santa Clara rates among the country's top 100 (out of 336) in 3-point field goals (7.1 per game) and 3-point field goal percentage (36.5). But if Washington State comes to play, it could rout a Santa Clara that rates 326th nationally in 3-point field goal defense (42.9 percent).

Take that stat and shove it: According to the latest RPI, Washington State is No. 115, while Oregon is No. 107. Anyone willing to take the Ducks straight up in a game against WSU right now?

Didn't think so.

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-10 ramblings at

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